The Buy Pile: Doing More With Less

Thu, April 5th, 2012 at 11:28am PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (two-time Eisner-winning journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter/head honcho of Komplicated.com) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock -- hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Quislet) and grabs a whole lotta comics. These periodicals are quickly sorted (how) into two piles -- the "buy" pile (a small pile most weeks, comprised of planned purchases) and the "read" pile (often huge, often including comics that are really crappy but have some value to stay abreast of). Thursday afternoons you'll be able to get his thoughts (and they're just the opinions of one guy, so calm down, and here's some common definitions used in the column) about all of that...which goes something like this...

THE BUY PILE FOR APRIL 4, 2012

Amazing Spider-Man #683
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Doctor Octopus is holding the world at ransom, looking for them to just recognize his genius...while the rest of the Sinister Six enact his relentless machinations. This plays out like a high-stakes game of chess while bringing in some great high profile cameos (Stephen Hawking, Al Gore, Angela Merkel and the president himself, almost a regular guest star at this point) alongside a boat load of Avengers. Best of all is looking at the intricate planning Peter Parker, usually quite impulsive, put into facing down some of his most persistent adversaries. Having J. Jonah Jameson also up to shenanigans didn't manage to upset the apple cart, and each co-star worked well -- Thor's intensity, Captain America's diplomacy, Red Hulk's lust for battle, Electro's arrogance, -- as well. Dan Slott's script is virtually perfect, and the artwork from Stefano Caselli and Frank Martin Jr. could not shine more brightly. Greatly entertaining.

G.I. Joe #12
(IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Taking things from Beverly Hills to the bleakest barrios is the theme for the G.I. Joe team, as they face an enemy too tough to shoot -- a drastically slashed budget -- engineered by the newly ascendant Baroness and her master, the much more murderous Cobra Commander. Zartan's getting a new job too, as a media flack for the organization to further sow discord and disinformation. Hawk gets some bad news, Duke picks up the pieces and Scarlett mourns for less-than-valid reasons. Sure, it was disappointing to see the resident drug lord Headman recast as a bead-wearing Black guy with a natural hairstyle, but Chuck Dixon's script worked wonders with a huge cast (much like Dan Slott's ASM) creating a whole new status quo and infusing great energy into this title. Really engaging work.

Daredevil #10.1
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Without the overbearing glee of getting away with murder (yes, Shadowland wasn't that long ago), Matt Murdock practices law as well as a disbarred attorney could, counseling a super villain...who was trying to kill him shortly before that point, in both of his identities. This all works well as a self-contained story, but as it also serves to further the meta-storyline of a hard drive containing all the secrets of some of Marvel's worst criminals, it's a masterful work from seasoned veteran Mark Waid on the script and evocative, stylish art from Koi Pham and Javier Rodriguez. The wonderful finale -- showcasing the apparent recklessness with his litigational cunning (the "Julian Assange line" is perfect) -- only underlines how great this issue was. Fantastic work, and just what a "point one" issue should be.

Skull-Kickers #13
(Image Comics)
The two rarely-named protagonists and their erstwhile elven enemy are stowaways on a pirate ship run and peopled exclusively by a refreshingly diverse group of women. The hilarious "sound effects" for action scenes are back again (and they're still very funny), there's a catchy song and you learn something about the bigger of the two that could be something fairly serious. It feels quick but not in a way that would make you think you got shorted, Jim Zub turns in another very entertaining script and Edwin Huang and Misty Coats make the artwork both fun and intimate. Great stuff.

Casanova Avaritia #3
(Icon/Marvel Comics)
This comic gets more entertaining the more you read it. The relationship between the lead character and the now much more complex Newman Xeno takes on such nuance and subtlety here that it's shocking that Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba were able to jam it into just one issue. Now, some of the more prudish readers might balk at some of the nudity, profanity and "alternative lifestyle choices" depicted here, but it only goes to further make Casanova Quinn one of the most conflicted characters in comics while doing nothing to detract from the Rube Goldberg plot. Ambitious, courageous and simply brilliant work, for a triumph like this, it's worth enduring any crossover, any company event. Wonderful.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

In a word: wow. What a simply amazing, enjoyable, delightful set of periodicals.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy

"Supreme" #63 was very, very close to making it home, wrapping up a storyline by Alan Moore (and subsequently has been riffed upon in many, many, many other comics) with a world full of his Lex Luthor analogue, set to invade the world of immortal, unkillable supermen out of boredom and lack of anything better to do. It's simplistic in a way, Silver Age-themed on purpose and enjoyable for the most nostalgic of fans...but it's really a little too unidimensional to fully work.

"Fairest" #2 likewise went a long way in the direction of making its way home with very fun exposition and banter between Sleeping Beauty and Ali Baba (with an informative little cherub along for the ride) developing both characters, but not much actually happened. Gorgeous work, an excellent show of craft but not quite where it needs to be.

"Chew" #25 stepped up in a big way, oddly enough with very limited panel time for its lead character. His girlfriend Amelia, however, comes on strong, doing everything from covert infiltration to whupping ass on her own, and had the issue been able to avoid some weird sex stuff (like, nightmare-inducingly weird) it likely would have made the jump.

Cute characters and a boring plot in "Fanboys vs. Zombies" #1, which took a fairly interesting interaction between a geeky group of friends and tossed it aside to unleash a badly conceived zombie plague at SDCC, even going as far as to make this site's head honcho out to be a celebrity-chasing dupe. Take the characters and give them to Chynna Clugston-Major or Jaime Hernandez and you could have an interesting piece to explore those relationships. Here? De rigueur zombie stuff.

"X-Club" #5? It's "The Big Bang Theory" for mutants, as Dr. Nemesis (Sheldon) overinflates his own ego, Dr. Rao (Penny) has her intelligence disparaged, Madison Jeffries (Howie...or maybe Raj, both are awkward around women) has a very weird romantic issue and Cyclops is either Wil Wheaton or President Siebert, coming in late, clashing with Nemesis and trying to not get flustered by the foolishness. Sure, Dr. Nemesis is a quote machine, but that's not enough to sort out all the extradimensional Nazi stuff.

Speaking of extradimensional mess, "Hell Yeah" #2 could be said to follow in the footsteps of "Hero Squared," as it throws unrequited cross-universal love into the mix while closing with a rather intriguing ending. The pacing is off, too slow and too thin in the middle, but it had some qualities worth recommending.

Imagine "Lord of the Flies" with super powers with a cloud of doom closing in and you'll have "Danger Club" #1. The character interplay was okay, with Kid Vigilante putting on the Batman pants, kicking butt without any super powers. This was good but not great as many characters stood around like their names were Devin Ebanks or Matt Barnes.

"Valen The Outcast" #5 stuck to slow character work with a monologuing undersea siren and lots of struggling with...being underwater? Something. Anyhoo, the supporting cast worked well together and the art's great, but this issue -- almost literally -- tread water instead of finding its way.

Alas, poor "Static Shock" #8...we knew it well. We certainly did by the end of this issue, which explained relevant details with even more descriptive art to a probing psychologist as if it was watching "Awake." This "jumping on" story dropped one weird moment (lost memories?) but didn't really sell the idea with the things that worked best. Virgil's humor was muted, his inroads at fitting in were left on the wayside, and the many, many images presented got less-than-clear explanations. Not bad, but a whisper to leave with instead of a bang.

The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title

"Thunderbolts" #172, "Action Comics" #8, "Fear Itself: The Fearless" #12, "Detective Comics" #8, "Infestation 2: 30 Days of Night," "Hulk" #50, "Green Arrow" #8, "Marvel's The Avengers Prelude: Nick Fury's Big Week" #3, "Hawk & Dove" #8, "New Mutants" #40, "OMAC" #8, "Secret Avengers" #24, "Red Lanterns" #8, "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #1, "Incorruptible" #28, "Venom" #15, "Fatale" #4, "Savage Dragon" #179

No, just...no... These comics? Not so much...

Oy. "Batwing" #8 had two big reveals that...honestly, were terrible. Trite, cliche and predictable, having the entire Gotham City crowd around to look on made it even more embarrassing, the lead character constantly needing the validation of the western billionaire to even function and (as a child soldier) falling neatly into the Black Hero Origin Algorithm. Tragically, scarily bad.

When the Runaways come to play, "Avengers Academy" #28 gets super emo, super whiny and involving some magical feel-good spell that makes everybody understand each other...gah. Awful, awful comics storytelling here.

"Invincible" #90 introduced a plot element about its title character that's...it's bad. "Submarine the issue" bad. "Shake your head sadly" bad. It's a huge spoiler for, honestly, the entire series, but it's...unfathomable to figure why such a hamfisted plot element was introduced. No.

"Justice League International" #8 proves that Batwing doesn't think much of Booster Gold, but O.M.A.C.'s guest role was pointless, the villains in the piece are dull and the issue as a whole was needlessly talky and ineffective.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Nine okay books will have to beat four terrible ones, as the "meh" cancels itself out...

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Three jumps and limited damage on the read side make this week a winner...even though it was the week when it was pointed out that we forgot the new book "Dominique Leveau" two weeks ago. Argh. See you next week.

THE BUSINESS

Great stuff going on at Komplicated.com, including a new NASA program to mentor young women, showcasing the President's geekdom, giving a birthday shout out to Dr. Maya Angelou and Marvin Gaye, the new Facebook game from the Wu-Tang Clan (really), Han Solo and Lando Calrissian dancing in "Kinect Star Wars," a new concept car from Lamborghini guaranteed to turn heads, and India's government planning a trip to Mars. Updated at least three times a day, every day, Komplicated is doing it for the block and the blogosphere, capturing the Black geek aesthetic.

Got a comic you think should be reviewed in The Buy Pile? If we get a PDF of a fairly normal length comic (i.e. "less than 64 pages") by no later than 24 hours before the actual issue arrives in stores (and sorry, we can only review comics people can go to stores and buy), we guarantee the work will get reviewed, if remembered. Physical comics? Geddouttahere. Too much drama to store with diminishing resources. If you send it in more than two days before comics come out, the possibility of it being forgotten increases exponentially. Oh, you should use the contact form as the CBR email address hasn't been regularly checked since George W. Bush was in office. Sorry!

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